Variations on theme…
The people of Rodrigues are not shy in showing their attachment to the expression of their unique identity. They share the different aspects of their culture through events focusing on the specificities of the island.
On 12 October each year the whole population celebrates Rodrigues’ Day (inaugurated in 2002), with the advent of Regional Autonomy a time for everyone to ponder over this milestone in the political history of the island.
The Fish Festival (celebrated annually on the 1st March) not only marks the opening of the net fishing season but also shows the special bond that exists between the inhabitants and the sea.
The recently created World Food Day (April / May) reflects the tenacity of the population in holding on to its cultural practices and its attachment to the bountiful earth.
Finally, the Kreol Festival is an annual event which is celebrated on the first weekend of December in Rodrigues Island. The event takes place every year in different places around Rodrigues and is intended above all for the Rodriguans. It is scheduled over five days of activities throughout the island and since it has become a tradition the opening and closing of the festival are centered in the host village. The festival welcomes around 5000 people at the opening and more than 10000 during the festivities and for the closing ceremony which is celebrated with a mega musical show “L’ambiance bann zil” which gathers famous artists from the Indian Ocean region including Rodrigues. A competition of ‘Miss Festival Kreol’ is also organised during this event.
Amongst other activities and festivities are: the celebration of the Abolition of Slavery on 01st February, the National Day on 12 March and the Abolition of Slave Trade on 23 August. The Miss Rodrigues contest is also organised so as to promote our island on the national platform.
The Trail of Rodrigues
The Trail of Rodrigues is an annual event which was launched in 2010, and which attracts both professionals and amateurs of trails. The second edition of Trail of Rodrigues welcomed more than 500 participants, with more than 93 came from Reunion Island and some from Germany, Portugal, France, India and Mauritius. For the 2011 Trail Rodrigues was honoured by the presence of the champion of France Julien Chorier. The trail is organised each year in the month of November and have 3 categories: 35 Km, 10Km and 5 km. For lovers and professionals of Trail: Get Ready for the coming Trails of Rodrigues.
Music: At the crossroads of different worlds
Culture in Rodrigues is an ode to the beauty of encounters. It keeps recalling the influences that marked the adventure of human settlement on the island. The “traditional” music results from the juxtaposition of musical forms into a medley of African and European influences, resting on two pillars. The first of its two pillars is the “sega tambour”, a blend of African and Malagasy influences which also acts as a space for social regulation. The high notes of the “maréchal” expose the failings of a neighbour or his wife, the misfortunes of a rival in love or in business, taken up by rolling drums, bass drumsticks and the “bobre” (a metal string strained over a wooden elbow and attached to a hollow pumpkin) playing in unison. The other pillar, the accordion, plays European traditional folk music – mazurka (mazok karé or krawzé), Scottish (kotis), waltz (Laval) – and forgotten lyrics are sometimes reinvented to cope with the failures of oral tradition in ensuring their transmission.
One fine day, the sega and the accordion united to the delight of dancers and musicians. Bands of young musicians also offer a wide range of contemporary musical styles – hip hop, ragga, reggae, RnB, etc. Now and then, these styles mix with the rhythms of the accordion, combining tradition with current trends.
The accordion is very popular at traditional balls taking up the tradition of “ranne zaricot” that are held on Sunday afternoons. The person who finds the bean in his slice of cake, or is crowned king or queen of the ball, must return the favour at the next ball.
The history of craftsmanship in Rodrigues is as old as that of settlement on the island. The use of local materials such as vakoa (pandanus) and the vetiver gave birth to a real economic activity based on basketry – baskets, headgear, table mats, etc. Activities thus developed around the use of coconut by-products, screen printing or even wood sculpture. Local designers now offer works in keeping with the style of the day with a vision stemming from the dynamic of tradition in everyday life.
Activity and vitality
Multicoloured signs hung here and there suggest the presence of a painter’s studio and are witnesses to the emergence of a form of artistic expression unique to Rodrigues. There is even a gallery in Port Mathurin where art lovers can contemplate the works of local artists. Sculpture and photography exhibitions are also held regularly. Long confined to anonymity due to their insularity, most local artists are self-taught.
Tantalizing your taste buds
Two factors combine in the richness of flavours that make Rodriguan cuisine one of the tastiest in the Creole world and in the Indian Ocean region: the natural freshness of a variety of local produce and of course, the traditional know-how and recipes that have run in families for generations, like variations over the same theme: mixing intense fragrances and flavours to tickle your taste buds.
The choice is vast: a cono-cono (shellfish) salad said to have aphrodisiac virtues, a traditional corn soup, steamed crab with garden spices, an octopus curry on a bed of home-ground corn and red kidney beans from the garden, an émincé of beef in a sauce, pork in honey, boiled country ham with fine herbs, a cabri- sauté (goat) with local flavours or some country chicken with ginger and curcuma. All of it served with an assortment of condiments – sweet and sour lemon pickles, chilli and mango, papaya or octopus pastes. And for dessert, a papaya sorbet, a coconut and honey pie, sweet potato or manioc pancakes or even a traditional corn pudding for dessert.
For the time of a meal, enjoy the intensity of flavours with local produce mixing freely to ravish your palate. Enjoy without moderation a dazzling display of delights that will tantalize your taste buds.
Roman Catholicism is the religion of a large local majority and one of the greatest prides of the Rodriguan people is to have welcomed Pope John Paul II in 1989. The island has also been granted the status of apostolic vicarage recently, with a full-fledged bishop since 2002.
The Sunday mass at the Sacré-Coeur Cathedral in Saint-Gabriel gives an indication of the attachment of the population to the expression of its faith. Other religious communities complete the picture, namely the Church of England whose followers are essentially grouped around Port Mathurin, Church of the Seventh-Day Adventists and the Assembly of God. The island also has a small community of people of Chinese origin that are integrated in the Christian churches, Muslims and Hindus.